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The Latest: Santee Cooper sale may not be governor’s choice

March 20, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on the possible sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

South Carolina Senate leaders say it isn’t their intention to turn over the possible sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper to the governor.

A proposal introduced Wednesday by Senate President Harvey Peeler appears to do just that, saying Gov. Henry McMaster can ask for offers and “execute the sale” of Santee Cooper.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman said that was not the proposal’s intention and said he will push for a change if needed.

The bill shows a shift in how senators view Santee Cooper. Just 27 days ago, Peeler created a committee to study what to do without a goal in mind.

But Peeler says meeting the past two weeks with Santee Cooper executives convinced senators they cannot continue to lead and the time for action has come.

Sen. Larry Grooms says he will fight any move to sell the utility without additional study.

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2:20 p.m.

The South Carolina senator whose district includes the headquarters of state-owned utility Santee Cooper says he will fight a bill allowing the governor to sell the company immediately.

Sen. Larry Grooms said he had no warning Wednesday that fellow Republican Senate President Harvey Peeler would introduce a bill changing the authority to sell Santee Cooper from the General Assembly to Gov. Henry McMaster.

Last month, Peeler announced a committee to study what to do with the utility, saying its only goal was to protect taxpayers.

Grooms says he expects others to join him in opposing the bill. He says the Senate needs to take its time and evaluate if Santee Cooper executives have a plan to help lower the utility’s debt.

Santee Cooper has about $8 billion in debt, with about half of it coming from halting construction on two nuclear plants before they were finished.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to take up Peeler’s proposal Wednesday afternoon.

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12:40 p.m.

The leader of the South Carolina Senate says the governor should be able to negotiate the sale of a state-owned utility.

Senate President Harvey Peeler of Gaffney introduced a proposal Wednesday to give Gov. Henry McMaster the authority to sell Santee Cooper.

Last month, Peeler created a committee of nine senators to review what to do with Santee Cooper, emphasizing the only goal was to protect taxpayers.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Peeler said he now thinks Santee Cooper’s leadership is in crisis. McMaster has pushed to sell the utility for nearly two years since its role in a pair of failed nuclear plants.

Santee Cooper is $8 billion in debt.

Several senators have been skeptical about the possible sale.

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